The Appointment of Marissa Mayer Is a Milestone for Women in Tech

Technology is an overwhelmingly male industry, with women in the UK tech industry currently only making up 17% of the workforce, according to E-Skills.

But over in Silicon Valley there are the first signs of change in the air. On Monday afternoon, Yahoo! announced the shock decision to appoint Marissa Mayer as its new CEO -- a move that has been applauded across the industry and is tipped to revive the fortunes of one of the internet's most recognizable brands.

Mayer is an inspiring figure. After completing a degree in Artificial Intelligence, she joined Google a year after its inception in 1999, in the process becoming only its twentieth employee and its first female engineer. For the past thirteen years she has played her part in almost all of the company's most-used services -- including Gmail, Google Maps, Google News and Adwords -- and is credited with maintaining the design of Google's iconic clutter-free homepage. She was recently appointed to the board at Walmart and over the last four years has been steadily climbing in Fortune magazine's annual list of America's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.

Despite her incredible CV, however, rumors had been circulating before Yahoo! swooped in that Mayer had hit the glass ceiling at Google, having been pushed in a sideways direction and seen another executive, Jeff Huber, installed above her as senior vice-president.

No matter. Google's loss is Yahoo's gain, and with her new role Mayer graduates to becoming not only one of the leading figures in Silicon Valley, but one of the most prominent women in corporate America.

Even more heartening is the news that Mayer is expecting a baby boy in October. Her example shows young girls that parenthood, despite countless assertions to the contrary, need not be a issue when it comes to the advancement of women in business. One can achieve both personal and professional success simultaneously.

All this shows us that, ever so slowly, the tech industry is becoming a better place to be a woman. Yahoo! may have seen better days, but the name still carries a huge amount of clout in the industry and the appointment of a female CEO should ring out around the world. Only last month Sheryl Sandberg became the first woman elected to the board of Facebook, while both IBM and Hewlett-Packard currently boast female chief executives in Meg Whitman and Virginia Rometty.

Right now, most young girls don't want to go into the technology industry. They see it as boring, geeky and -- most damagingly -- unsuitable for them, an attitude that can largely be blamed on there being a lack of recognisable female role models in the industry to show them otherwise. When girls look up the ladder and see that the major players are all men it tells them that tech is an industry that where they have no place to go.

A few more examples like Mayer and Sandberg, however, and all that will change. The more women we see making decisions at the top of the industry, the more girls will be encouraged to flood in at the bottom.

We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves -- there's still a long, long way to go and the number of women in top tech jobs is still depressingly tiny. But there's no doubt that a banner appointment like this is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to encouraging the next generation of women to follow in their footsteps.

So congratulations to Marissa Mayer -- a woman who should be celebrated by Lady Geeks everywhere -- and commendations to Yahoo!, whose bold appointment should be regarded as a significant milestone on the way to achieving equality in tech.

Belinda will be exploring the role of women in the technology industry in her forthcoming book Little Miss Geek.
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